Garlic is easy to grow and once harvested you will have a year-round supply saving money and living sustainably. This easy guide shows how to harvest and braid garlic bulbs with a quick video at the end.
How to Grow Garlic
There are many different varieties available to buy from garden centres. It is best to find out what variety grows best in your area as some will do better in cooler climates where others prefer warm Mediterranean climates.
In the Southern hemisphere it is best to plant garlic in late February to early April for a harvest in October to November. In the Northern hemisphere plant in September to December with harvest between February to May depending on your climate.
Add compost and aged cow manure to your soil prior to planting then cultivate to a depth of 25 cm or 10 inches.
Pull apart the bulb and set aside the smallest cloves for eating as they won’t produce large bulbs. Plant each clove root side down and 1 to 2 inches deep. The depth will be twice the height of the clove. Plant each clove about 10 cm (4 inches) apart to give each clove enough room to form a bulb.
Keep moist and apply a liquid fertiliser every two weeks.
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How to Harvest Garlic
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- Soft Paint Brush
Harvesting and Drying Garlic Bulbs
- Assess Harvest Time
Garlic is ready to harvest when about half of the leaves have dried. If in doubt gently dig down being careful not to scratch the bulb and feel the bulb to see if it has defined ridges where the cloves have formed. If they have then it is ready to harvest.
- Remove the Garlic Bulb
It is best not to water a day before harvest so it is easier to dig the garlic out of the ground. Gently dig around the bulb with a trowel being careful not to damage the bulb then insert the trowel underneath the bulb at an angle all the way around to loosen the roots then gently lift upwards until the bulb has come loose.
- Remove Excess Dirt
Shake off any excess dirt then use a soft brush to gently brush away any dirt on the bulb.
- Lay Out to Dry
Cut off the roots then either tie several bulbs together and hang or lay the bulbs out on a table with room between each bulb. Whichever method you use they must be in a dry area that gets good air circulation and is out of direct sunlight.
- Curing the Garlic
If the centre shoot continues to grow while drying just cut it off and it will dry. It is important to let your garlic cure before storing as this helps the bulbs dry evenly and prevents spoilage. Drying time for garlic can be 2 weeks to 2 months depending on your climate.
I have been told by a garlic farmer that the longer you leave it in the ground the more intense the flavour will be but if you leave garlic in the ground for too long the cloves will expand out of the protective covering. It will then have to be used straight away as they don’t store as well. If you have this problem you can successfully freeze garlic.
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Hang garlic in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight that has good air circulation. Once you remove a bulb for use it is best to store the cloves in the fridge as their shelf life decreases once the bulbs protective layer has been broken.
If your garlic bulbs start to rot it is best to freeze whatever you have left.
First put the cloves in a blender then blitz until chopped to your liking. Lay out a long stretch of plastic wrap then place the garlic along the plastic in a long thin log. Roll the plastic around the garlic log then wrap the log in foil for extra protection and freeze.
When you need to use the garlic just unwrap one end and snap off the required amount then thaw.
Braiding Garlic Bulbs
First have twine and scissors handy and arrange your bulbs into larger and smaller bulbs as you will start with the larger bulbs then finish with the smaller ones.
It is easier to braid the bulbs if the stems are moistened, but it isn’t necessary. You can moisten the stems by wetting a cloth and wiping it along the stems being careful not to get any moisture on the bulbs.
Place three bulbs together with the two side bulbs laying across and the centre bulb laying straight. Tie twine close to the bulbs to secure.
Lay three more bulbs behind the first with the sides laying across and the centre laying straight. Pull one side towards the middle so the middle is now at the side then pull the opposite side towards the middle.
Lay three more bulbs behind and braid. If the bulbs start to feel loose then tie more twine behind the bulbs and continue. As you go use the smaller bulbs towards the end as this looks more attractive but isn’t necessary.
After the last bulb continue braiding the stems then tie off with the twine and make a loop for hanging. Cut off the excess stems and use as mulch in the garden.
To save or print this guide on how to harvest and braid garlic bulbs, here is the PDF Version.
For more information on canning, freezing and drying food try this guide to Food Preservation.
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